Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Decade hence

The end of September, so just a calendar month to go until Noughties By Nature, our crowdsourced sprint through the songs of the decade just finishing. Now, we've had the first handful of write-ups in but we're still only about a quarter of the way to our target of 180 songs in terms of those nominated thus far and haven't had any new definite volunteers for a while. Here are the details again; just make sure this one doesn't fizzle out ignominiously as well, please.

Spring forward

Right, let's start getting back to normal. Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring have been put in the box labelled with the dreaded T-word but the septet's influences spread much wider, taking in Beach Boys summery wide-eyed loveliness, early Smiths post-jangle, Sparklehorse old weird Americana and indiepop's classic innocence and lost thereof. A wobbly hearted thing, debut album How I Wasted My Youth, out nowish on Marketstall Records, actively recalls all sorts of things - these tracks respectively instinctively remind us of J Xaverre and Fanfarlo but have a lively, likeable touch of their own.

Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring - Take Your Own Good Advice
Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring - A Question Of Trust

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

End Of The Road 2009: Sunday

There weren't more people there this year than last, the first sellout, but at times it felt like it. As mentioned there was an unprecedented demand for Fleet Foxes, whether through the Horrors pullout or, y'know, people just wanting to see them, but the new Tipi layout led to some mighty backlogs too - First Aid Kit, Blitzen Trapper and J Tillman all suffered. The problem is you just can't hear anything from a certain distance, and even getting in five minutes early or so for the first two bands of the Sunday proved a challenge finding space with everyone sitting down. Simon Taafe has already said this will be sorted out for next year, but some sort of balance has to be found given the Bimble Inn sound issues of previous years, although this year's faults were heightened by the bass-heavy PA from the Local next door, a tent that was about the same distance away last year.

Bear Driver
Some of these people were in Friday night's piano stage karaoke, we're sure. Mic stands bedecked with peacock feathers, as only seems appropriate, we've ended up in such a poor position that we can only actually see the band members when they move to the front of the stage. No question there's something interesting here, though, maybe a little Grandaddy without the analogue keyboards (but with a drum machine and an accordion on one track), maybe Pavement, something we'd like to see 'properly' round about Indietracks next year. Certainly poppily upbeat and 'natural' sounding enough.

Stars Of Sunday League
Sometime Emmy The Great collaborator Euan Robinson is more reflective of Adem then anyone from that direct scene, a folkily likeable heart on sleeve storyteller rich on minute detail as an adjunct to the bigger personal picture amid arrangements stripped of anything too opaque. He mentions Ballboy as an influence, which is evident if with a modern folk edge. Robinson meanwhile makes for a likeable character for all his supposed self-examination flaws, and we could have one to keep a properly close eye on here.

We missed out on Bob Lind with Jarvis Cocker and Richard Hawley on backup through various meetings, eatings and watching people play Scrabble out in the gardens. It also meant we missed the hand of commercialism butt its way in as between garden stage bands was filming for a scene from a forthcoming film adaptation of widely ignored Guardian cartoon Tamara Drewe. It was seemingly the loudest thing on the stage all day given we could hear it from the other end of the site, although one wonders how the setting would look realistic for a "hit band performing their number one single" at a megacorp festival. Still, it's a British independent film starring (absent) Gemma Arteron so nobody will ever see it.

Joe Gideon & The Shark
Viva Seifert is one of music's great expressionist drummers. The sometime Shark is all over the place in a way that doesn't translate well in attempted written explanation - not just using loop pedals to work in keyboard, vocals, effects and whatever else is handy but crashing all round the kit with no little force or limb flailing dramatic flourish. And incredibly precisely too, fluent and almost tribally rhythmic. Much as she's the visual focal point of the pair, it's Gideon's raggedly glorious wall of swamp blues-fuzz guitar and epically sonorous monologues that take audible precedence. The effect, as ever, is to almost visually win people over in an inexorable fashion, the pair's broad smiles after every song reflecting the huge ovation for them all. Mark Cleveland of the Archie Bronson Outfit lends a second percussive hand to Civilisation, but frankly he's not as agile. Gideon passed us wandering down to the dance floor later on. It couldn't have seemed more out of place were he...

Bob Log III
Right, so here's a bloke in a gold lame boilersuit and full face pilot's helmet with a mike made from an old telephone receiver attached to the inside playing insanely fast slide guitar while keeping time with his own bass drum. For an hour. There's not a lot of stylistic variation, but it hardly matters when the visual, and indeed the skill, not to mention the banter, is this remarkable. His request for females to bounce on his knee (during I Want Your Shit On My Leg, natch) goes unheeded only because, and we have eyewitness accounts of this, security were stopping willing volunteers from scaling the barrier. An absolute one-off.

Mind you, we do end up wandering into the woods for what should have been a couple of minutes. Why is there a massive crowd around the piano? Are they expecting someone?

Okkervil River

Being several feet away from Will Sheff, even in casual mode, allows us to observe not only his fine new beard but his skill with songwriting and an audience that must have been treble figures of onlookers, and not just paying punters - Franz Nicolay and Josh T Pearson for two are in attendance. A five song set includes something that turns halfway through into Joni Mitchell's The Blonde In The Bleachers and, on inevitable request given they'd not done it in the 'proper' set, a mighty Westfall before Sheff alone comes back for an unrehearsed run through The President's Dead. And there goes one of the great bands of our time in the most intimate special setting they'll play in many a year. And we were there.

Magnolia Electric Co.
Seemed a bit of a comedown after the heights of Okkervil in close quarters, but this incarnation of Jason Molina's vision seems like he's coasting a little anyway. We really liked Songs: Ohia, but this errs too much towards more The Band trad country-rock with no real desire to go anywhere.

Dan Sartain
For a wild man of rock'n'roll revivalism, as one with the regulation black clothing and quiff, Sartain doesn't really set himself apart from the legions of garage blues/rockabilly retreaders no matter how many people die violently in his songs.

Sparrow And The Workshop
Something of a slow burn going on around the cosmopolitan Glasgow-based trio and while we can't fully throw our weight behind them. there's definitely something going on. Their take on alt-folk seems sepia tinged, sometimes like a lost Johnny and June Carter Cash murder ballad transposed to the 90s roots of alt-country, stripped down almost to the bare bones the better to play off the Lanegan and Campbell-esque interplay between Jill O'Sullivan and Gregor Donaldson. Maybe a little too in thrall to various points now but there's definite room to let their approach catch full bloom and make something really striking.

Dan Michaelson & The Coastguards
Michaelson's lugubrious bass of a voicebox is striking enough when he's fronting Absentee. Here in front of a downhome, melancholic outfit heavy on the pedal steel it's as if an Anglicised Leonard Cohen is burrowing through to the earth's core. The effect is Bill Callahan at 33rpm and it'll be interesting to see what he does next.

Couldn't go a festival year without them. Unfortunately what that means is once we've got the description of Tom White's current facial hair (tache, general four day growth) out of the way there's precious little new to say about them on STN. Not that that's a complaint. The second EOTR ever-present, people go wild for them down the front, actual crowdsurfing taking place by the end of All Night Disco Party, and while there's no new songs and only three from this year's Touchdown it still makes, as ever, for the most fun that we ever had.

Neko Case
If it's going to be a countryish sort of day - Dan Michaelson, S&TW, Magnolia, Steve Earle being on before Case - it might as well be someone with a crystal clear voice to soar into the darkening heavens and a proper femme-country outlook of either standing up for herself or having extreme heartbreak leave her incapable of standing up for herself. Most of the set comes from the recent Middle Cyclone album, which failed to take her into wider hearts by the expedient of being comparatively rubbish, which affects proceedings, not least as when she breaks into an older song the general relief is notable. Even so, only the cover of Train From Kansas City demonstrates any sort of liveliness. Still, as yet another to openly awe at the sort of place she's playing, she might bring the New Pornographers next year.

The Dodos
Frustrating band, the Dodos. At times their intense percussive nature leads to enthrallingly hypnotic moments, chiefly through restless drummer Logan Kroeber, yet between those come longeurs when the pace and attention level, both of detail and of us, completely slackens, subtleties smoothed over until you could ice skate on them.

The Hold Steady
By all accounts the organisers had a lot of trouble picking up a Sunday headliner, but despite a nowhere near packed garden stage they did well. What do you need from a headliner, after all? Someone with a fulsome catalogue of great songs who can get a crowd going and belie the big space they're presented with? That's what the Hold Steady are born to do, crank out the one part Bruce to one part Replacements to one part whisky chaser and watch Craig Finn harangue the front row as if his travails with last night's girl is specifically our fault. And they do bang them out, starting with Constructive Summer just to stake out their turf, barely pausing over an hour and a half, so much so that Finn doesn't even break into his beer bottle until more than halfway. When he does the "so much joy in what we do up here" spiel during Killer Parties, this time augmented with shout-outs to the festival and a good deal of the day's bill, you can actually believe it and the crowd definitely want to. Right at the end, it may not have been the prettiest, but it bulldozed Larmer Tree Gardens with kindness.

Archie Bronson Outfit
Except it wasn't all over in the Big Top. And christ alive, when did the ABOs - nearly ever presents themselves, having now played three plus two-thirds of them as Pyramids last year - get so loud? When they recruited someone to make 8-bit noises over the riffs, possibly, but then the riffs are at ear blistering volume. There's a handful of new songs of great promise, but the enduring image is being caught out by their doing an encore but still hearing every note of Kangaroo Heart from right across the site. In a way, despite its voluminous difference from much of what had preceded it, it's this triumph of music and festival spirit over surroundings that sums up End Of The Road 2009.

Or whatever.

Monday, September 28, 2009

End Of The Road 2009: Saturday

Yes, there's photos alright.

The Leisure Society
Various forms of the Wilkommen Collective have been semi-regular EOTR visitors, so this year we may as well get the actually to a degree successful version. The Ivor Novello nominated The Last Of The Melting Snow turns out to be the slowest song in a set of orchestrated melancholy that tips its metaphorical hat to Nick Drake or a more fleshed out, less cussed John Martyn. Nick Hemming is a self-deprecating frontman as well as a carefully nuanced songwriter, which isn't always a good thing but makes the Leisure Society that more homely. They finish by covering the Beatles' Something; sadly we miss their Sunday set by the piano, which includes a cover of Cars.

Darren Hayman
Hayman and his Secondary Modern also played a secret set, this time in the Tipi after hours so obviously we were never going to get near that. The closest (apart from Brakes) that EOTR has to a resident, it's a set largely based on this year's Pram Town album, little known cuts and new songs, one of which features the disarming lyric "you look like the lesbian off Brookside". Hayman's affability continues to shine through as much as his small town eye for detail.

The Low Anthem
On record the Low Anthem, apart from when they get their growly blues groove on, are an incredibly hushed, fragile experience. Here, just as much so. In fact, you can't actually hear them at the top of the arena for large periods merely due to ambient noise overtaking them. Get closer over time and something of the hushed melodic nature and acquaintance with a good number of unusual instrumentation reveals itself, but it's still thin enough to get blown away in a strong breeze. Ah well.

The Boy Least Likely To
Rather more raucousness over in the Big Top with a band, or more precisely a charm filled frontman in Jof Owen (who'd been manning the Rough Trade store tent for part of the Friday), who clearly relishes playing the festival as much as he relishes being on stage. Their second album passed by with barely a mention earlier in the year but this set is heavy on the debut anyway with its 'country disco' (their words) bubblegum delights as well as their celebrated cover of Faith, which Jof still can't get through without cracking up.

The Broken Family Band
A band that everyone seems to love in their live incarnation, they're unfortunately inching towards closure in mid-October, this being their last festival. A good excuse then to go back through the back catalogue, starting with It's All Over and cherrypicking from Americana'd debut to rock shape-throwing current. What comes through as the thing which has strung this band's developing style along over the decade is the behatted Steven Adams' great lyrical touch to complement his undoubted way with stage banter. They'll be missed.

Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele
You can't properly hear the ukelele. That seems to be something of an issue, all told. And the songs aren't up to as much as we'd hoped either.

The Acorn
Last year they were a propulsive joy twice over. This year, with a little more attention and a whole hour to fill, the shock of the new isn't as marked but they're still a more than capable turn, lushly adventurous and grand in scope without going anywhere near over the top. There's a new "sexy soul song" that nearly lives up to its billing, Ohbijou pop by on a couple of songs and the general air is one of a band still ready for the big push towards greatness.

Malcolm Middleton
Not missing Middleton at a festival for once, we find him gleefully playing the bonus iTunes track from his last album. That's the spirit. Being the musical half of Arab Strap maybe it shouldn't be surprising that his songs are as much backed by experiments in texture as proper chords and stuff, creating a murky feel that suits his dour outlook lyricism just fine, at least when you can hear it properly. He suits low lit dry ice.

Wildbirds & Peacedrums
That a duo that is essentially a drummer and a percussionist can be so awe inspiringly gripping live is down to the almost feral nature of the husband and wife's playing off each other. Andreas Werliin is either expertly held back or positively Muppets Animal-like at times in his arrhythmic pounding across the kit while Mariam Wallentin stalks the stage, almost daring you to doubt her as she bluesily bellows into the mike before retreating to add her own tribal percussion. An astounding, completely convicting and convincing use of the basic backbone of music to create something thrilling.

Okkervil River
Could Okkervil River ever be a stadium band? They certainly increasingly have the tools to be capable of holding a massive audience in the palm of their hand. In fact, three or four songs in, that's exactly what they do, as everyone but Will Sheff and Lauren Gurgiolo leaves the stage and Sheff, apologising first for trying out a quieter song, leads a mostly acoustic hushed take on the longing A Stone. In the gaps, there is absolute silence. The odd baby or peacock perhaps, but everyone is completely rapt by this song and this vocal performance. The rest of this absolute winner of a set takes a broad sweep back through the back catalogue, heavier on the last two albums, everything greeted with mass adulation - proper fists aloft as John Allyn Smith Sails breaks into Sloop John B, roars for the Unless It's Kicks riff, the works. Are these anthems? They are played with this conviction and passion, as Sheff urges us on to greater heights before chucking the whole mic stand into the empty photographer's pit. This feels like our Moment of the weekend, or at least a close approximation thereof.

The Horrors were due to headline the Big Top, Simon telling all and sundry that Primary Colours was his favourite album of the year and their set was the one he was most looking forward to. However, early on news came through that they'd phoned in sick - to some cheers, it has to be noted, and Tom White the following day wasn't alone in pointing out that they were well enough to play Bestival the night before just across whatever the stretch of water seperating the Isle of Wight from the mainland is called, by all accounts a heavily lacklustre set. It's possible one of them did pick up something, of course, but you heavily suspect it was more pram failing to meet toys. What it did mean was an opportunity to see the sprawling reveries of the Danish collective. They play a fair selection of new songs, which are less digitally inclined and unfortunately seem lesser writter all round, substituting most of the glacial quasi-post-rock harmonics of their work so far for more straight up bombast, which won't do.

Zun Zun Egui
There've been complaints that this year's lineup was less varied and more homogenised than the previous three EOTR outings. Maybe it's the way the musical tides have fallen, but if there's one band that are going to stick out like the sorest of thumbs it's Zun Zun Egui. An extraordinary head-on collision of Afrobeat, Deerhoof-esque avant/Mars Volta-ish noodling, heavy tropical grooves, jazz-psych-rock and lyrical speaking in tongues, it's hard to know what to really make of it having been softened up by everything around it.

Fleet Foxes
It had to happen. There's security on the garden stage entrance for a good portion of the set as it's overflowing. Well, they say it is, but when we do get in there seems to be plenty of room up top, yet when security give up a few minutes later it quickly starts seeming overcrowded. The performance is kind of what you'd expect, in a way - the harmonies are dead on, the playing is borne of a year or more on the road's confidence, it all translates well but not really any more electrically than on record, bar the odd moment of Mykonos/White Winter Hymnal astronomical west coast sweetness. The one surprise is a cover of Fleetwood Mac's Dreams with Robin Pecknold's sister on backing vocals, and they do seem to be enjoying themselves, chatting amiably with the crowd despite clearly feeling the drop in temperature.

Josh T Pearson
As the two sets overlap, Pearson spends the first ten minutes doing a very un-Pearson-like thing; telling jokes. Apparently he does do this on occasion, according to an acquaintance with a bootleg, but you wouldn't think it of him to watch him, cowboy hat pulled low, voice caked in doom, beard majestic, wrenching his soul out through evangelical country-inflected skyscraping. Sometimes he keeps it almost minimal and conspiratorial, sometimes somehow as loud as any noisemonger, totally bewitching. Mike Siddall of the Wilkommen Collective and hundreds of bands besides (Hope Of The States, Lightspeed Champion) joins in on improvised violin for a couple of songs, and he's clearly as much in awe as the rest of us. This is what EOTR is about - the switch from heavenly harmonies to god-fearing existential angst. With a smile.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

End Of The Road 2009: Friday

There's always been something unique about the Dorset/Wiltshire end of festival term party that is End Of The Road, and late on Saturday it finally struck us exactly what it is. Wandering through the semi-secret woods, nominally in pitch darkness but for the endless fairy lights, somewhere between the light-up dancefloor and the piano around which were crowded all sorts of nogoodniks - some in bands - having just watched a bonfire in the middle of the largest field, a drum circle off in the middle distance, the thought struck us: there may not be the extra-curricular activities, but there's no need to actually come out of this heavily manned fairytale setting to go and watch some musicians. It's enchanting enough as it stands.

Romanticising to the nth degree, of course, but there's a soul beyond mere entertainment value to EOTR that many a festival strives that little bit too hard for. It bills itself as a festival that relaxes you, and with its garden setting, not too large location and variety of celebrated features, from the woods to the Cider Bus, give it that ordinary magic beyond most festivals' kens. Maybe it was because for once it didn't tip down on the Friday, or indeed at all, but that enchantment all seemed heightened this year. This isn't a summer festival as outsiders would recognise it. Up against Bestival and after the official media wind-down of Reading & Leeds, it's almost our little secret. People care. Because the festival cares.

Reputation suggests the Canadians should have made more of an impression, I suppose, but as it stood they were a good way to open a festival of this nature for us with their dialled-down post-Funeral mini-orchestral swells and Casey Mecija's emotionally hefty delivery, if not quite laden with enough hooks to drag many people into the Big Top. A tent, by the way, that like the other tents was reduced in size this year, good in this case as it rectified last year's sound issues, but not so much in the already hard to warm to Tipi (ex-Bimble Inn), which redesigned itself into a glorified L-shape with lots of support beams but meant even fewer people could get in and/or hear anything.

Mumford & Sons
When and how did Marcus and the rest of them become so popular with the kids? There's a small but vociferous band of them at the front cheering every song as if they're headlining, when they're the first band on the Garden Stage of the whole event and in a 45 minute slot they barely make it over half an hour despite this being the first stopoff on their album tour. No doubt their hoedowns are things of occasionally ramshackle but often wholehearted attraction, though, and maybe the pop-psychologist in me thinks the adoption of their four part harmony laden bluegrass may be a rustic 'natural' reaction to the dayglo electronics of last year's loves. They have a spell over the rest of the onlookers too, as Mumford suggests in passing that people sitting in the sun get up towards the rollicking end of Roll Away Your Stone and at least half of them do, like a half Mexican wave moving away from the stage. Wonderful start.

Loney Dear
When Emil Svanangen played here two years ago we were struck by how much more full-on his live song was compared to the aching loveliness of his recorded output. Since then his follow-up Loney Noir has disappeared under the critical radar, and the songs from it don't seem to leave much impression, but he seems to have found a happy medium live through warm harmonies and likeable banter. It's just musically a little safe and directionless.

David Thomas Broughton
Some people, of course, thrive on the apparently directionless, if in a suitably opposing manner. Broughton has a double bass player and drummer for most of the set but it doesn't anchor him down all that much, as songs get extended beyond their means so he can add extraneous bits to the loops, wander off and play a bit of one finger keyboard (they gave him one of those as well), rearrange his scarf or, and this is very much key, whatever, before starting a new song regardless. At one point he combines the disciplines of guitar solo and speed banana eating, having had the fruit/herb/whatever on his shoulder for the previous ten minutes. He proceeds, of course, to put the peel on his head and disappear into loops of oblique noise and bleak cries. Only a brief smile flashed at the soundman at some out of time noise threatens to break his lugubrious poker face. A few walk away not quite understanding it all, or perhaps out of fear, but the vast majority are rapt. Then four kids come on and bash a couple of drums arrythmically for a couple of minutes, the one nearest to Broughton throughout eyeing him up in great suspicion. Eventually he stops them. He does this by bellowing "STOP IT! STOP PLAYING!" Then he faces us and, once he's quietened the rabid applause, offers his postscript: "now you can go and see some real music".

First visit of the year to The Local for a sweeping post-rock inflected collective with a violinist providing a quasi-orchestral edge and the capacity to build into towering monoliths of distorted guitars from pastoral beginnings. It sounds to us a lot like Her Name Is Calla, and unfortunately they don't have that extra dramatic spark or ambition that marks HNIC out.

There aren't many bands who could get away with announcing at the very outset that they were going to play a lot of songs they've never played before, at least in this country (from new album The Golden Archipelago, aimed for February/March) Then again, especially after last year's Local-filling midnight set, there's not a lot of bands you'd trust more than Jonathan Meiburg's collective to uphold their core musical sentiments no matter what they spring on us. These new songs comprise about half the set, sounding more like a band than before, going down some interesting sidepaths with Meiburg largely on guitar throughout. One song employs redoubtable drummer Thor Harris on clarinet and then as half of a glockenspiel duet. The rest of the set is as restlessly dramatic as expected, Meiburg's voice soaring and the arrangements enthrallingly rollercoaster-like in emotive reach. Sounding ever closer to a filled out Talk Talk, there seems no limit as to what they can achieve.

Euros Childs
A late replacement for the Mummers, who pulled out due to what seems to be tragic circumstances, we've never quite got into Euros as a solo artist and his own material doesn't seem to have the stickability or interesting quirks of Gorky's. Or maybe we were just too excited for...

Dirty Projectors
Everyone's live highlight of SXSW, if Dave Longstreth and co feel they have anything to live up to it doesn't show in the slightest. It helps that Longstreth is an amazing guitarist, his acrobatically complicated African-influenced guitar lines never seeming showy in execution, locking into the odd complex groove or intra-band play-off where required while still knocking out these tremendously labyrinthine lead parts. Around him the rhythm section hold the polyrhythms down as much as they dare, Amber Coffman locks down a capable second guitar and the other two girls shift between instruments and lending their harmonic vocal talents. And they are talents, just as integral as the warped Afropop to the DP's sound. Much has been made of Coffman's Stillness Is The Move vocal, which she pulls off with mighty aplomb to prove against the odds that there was still room for the set to get better after a remarkable Rise Above that opened up the already spectral sound of their recorded version, but the opening of Angel Deradoorian's own acrobatic without being showy pipes on an acoustic Two Doves pretty much silences the place. Her and Coffman trading rapid scale notes at the start and end of Remade Horizon is practically inhuman. Ending up on the barrier watching such a phenomenally tight and accomplished band, let alone one reaching for such ridiculously distant stars, right now feels a unique experience.

Herman Dune
Once upon a time, in its own way, a Herman Dune set would have been something to treasure but now you get the feeling the now duo have lost their way a little, going on the portentious 'rocking out' and the increased proportion of lyrical inanity. They rescue it towards the end with more of an upbeat party feel, but that should have been there from the start. It always used to be. Perhaps the good while they spent playing table tennis in the woods that afternoon took it out of them.

The Week That Was
Do you reckon Peter Brewis named his side project such so that, at the end of their last gig, he could declare "that was The Week That Was"? Because that's just what he does and just what this is, work on the third Field Music album long underway. With David on drums they go through the album in order with a playful confidence - check that vibraphone work! - that belies the parent band's questioned live reputation. They finish with a couple of covers, neither of which we recognise. Good work all round.

Explosions In The Sky were the night's headliners, but having missed all three last year there's no great sense of loss at having watched TWTW instead. We wanted to see Beth Jeans Houghton but the tent was too full up, so end up by the piano watching a group of men in assorted levels of inebration, some of whom were clearly strangers to each other, attempt to cover Paranoid Android entirely from memory on an acoustic guitar. Bet Dave Longstreth could do it. And a lot more besides.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Weekly Sweep

  • 4 Or 5 Magicians - Nice Little Earner [YouTube]
  • The Antlers - Two [Myspace]
  • The Chapman Family - Virgins [Myspace video]
  • Everything Everything - MY KZ, YR BF [Myspace]
  • Fanfarlo - The Walls Are Coming Down [YouTube]
  • Internet Forever - Cover The Walls [Myspace]
  • Joe Gideon & The Shark - Civilisation [Myspace]
  • Johnny Foreigner - Criminals [YouTube]
  • The Kiara Elles - Odio [YouTube]
  • Los Campesinos! - The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future [Vimeo]
  • Minnaars - Are Lovers [Myspace]
  • Money Can’t Buy Music – Beautifulgirlsunnyledges [mp3 from Song, By Toad]
  • Rose Elinor Dougall - Fallen Over [Myspace]
  • The Scaramanga Six - Misadventure [YouTube]
  • Sky Larkin - Smarts [free mp3]
  • Slow Club - Trophy Room [live YouTube]
  • Something Beginning With L - Say
  • Stairs To Korea - Boy Bear It In Mind [Vimeo]
  • Tubelord - Propeller [Vimeo]
  • Wild Beasts - All The King's Men [YouTube]
  • Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Road block

    End Of The Road reviewage will follow before the Mayan prophecy armageddon, we assure you. Next week, in fact, over a similarly hasty three parts. In the meantime, we really want to get things moving as far as Noughties By Nature, our collaborative effort to find the actual best songs of the decade, goes. Here are some of the songs volunteered so far - good, but nowhere near the magic 180 figure. We still, and will always need, volunteers. Get in contact if you want to write for it; even better, give us a list of songs you feel you can write a couple of paragraphs about explaining their greatness; even even better, start writing about them, because by November 1st we'll need something to post to stop this being another STN disaster.

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Summer Sundae 2009 belated review: Sunday

    Did we mention... well, no, we know we didn't mention our lovely photo set. It's all here.

    Free Control
    Bit of a mixed bag, all told. With apparent soul, trip-hop and avant-rock influences, at times their post-Massive Attack forcefulness recalls UNKLE's best moments; too often, though, when they slow it down they fall into the sphere of Morcheeba and Zero 7. And not the couple of good songs they had, the wishy-washy not-even-chillout stuff.

    Shortwave Fade
    Especially as they nearly played our SSW warm-up gig we wish we could have liked this set more, but... The main name that comes to mind is Editors, which isn't entirely fair as they have ideas well away from their pat grab-bag, but the mixing of widescreen modern guitar rock (we trust you know what we mean by this) with an electronic undertow aims at something much more than it can manage, and while there's nothing wrong with ambition we're not sure it entirely gels. More intensity and thinking outside the box may be required, but while they're not a band to write off they're not yet the saviours either.

    You Fellows of All Souls
    Assorted members of longstanding Leicester nearly men dabble in classic rock, then fall into Lemonheads/Shins-ish quirkiness-attesting classic pop shapes. Not bad for now. Apparently they covered They Don't Know. That we'd have liked to have seen. The reason we didn't is because we'd already decided we had to catch half of...

    Kevin Hewick
    Now here's a man with a three decade heavily storied history, not least that as a Factory alumni he recorded with Sumner, Hook and Morris post-Curtis suicide but before they'd settled on New Order. Now sporting a Manics T-shirt and playing what he describes at one point as "grunge for the over-50s", a serratedly electrifying power trio at some volume and intensity that nods to Neil Young, the Who and Led Zep and features a good deal of showmanship soloing. Hewick seems genuinely proud to be playing the hall, and it shows in how much he's giving it.

    From one vulgar display of power to quite another. Pretty much the whole rest of the local scene is on the barrier where once (even for Minnaars) there were seventeen year olds. We haven't written about them as much as we should have out of some notion that we write about Leicester bands too much on here, but Maybeshewill, once trailing behind Kyte and Her Name Is Calla in the local post-rock explosion, have elbowed their way to the front by our reckoning with two superb albums of instrumental fear, from heavy riffage to airy piano inserts, all non-guitar/drums on laptop. Being on the big stage doesn't phase them either, although we think they had some technical issues early on, as their elegantly aggressive drama fills the spaces. John claimed to me, after a Fringe warm-up set where they copied a trick we'd both seen Blakfish and Colour pull off at one of his gigs a couple of months earlier and swapped places with Death Of London after every song, that this would be their laid-back set. It wasn't.

    But this was, not that Woodpigeon really know any other way. Their chamber folk is beefed up very slightly from on record, slowly building from fragile openings to full blooded choral swells, textured gorgeously topped by Mark Hamilton's sumptuous vocal. Many are genuinely rapt well before they finish by bringing on Beth Jeans Houghton, in her excellent blonde afro wig, to co-cover Lay All Your Love On Me.

    Now then.

    Let us tell you about this.

    No, actually, let's not tell all, because words and sentences cannot convey anything like a chain of events, stretching over an hour in a half hour slot, that defied all logic, descriptive capability and quite a bit of physics to boot. Some of us were dimly aware of the Israeli trio's live reputation, and it was unusual enough to see a band set up on the floor of the hall. The music, garagey, sludgy, slightly Sabbath-y heavy rock, seemed out of keeping with everything else. And then they emerged, chiefly leader Levi "Ha Haziz" (Yomtov) Elvis - or, more prosaically, Ami Shalev - in his small trunks. People are jumped on, drinks are summarily redistributed and a large plastic bin is brought into play.

    Then they started properly.

    'Pon their musical signal, unleash hell.

    We can't work out whether the image at 40 seconds or the last one there is the more disturbing.

    And then there was some more messing about with the drums. Note the sage advice which we hope readers will bear in mind for their next home soiree.

    Imagine being in the middle of all this. Actually, partly in fear, we were up in the balcony taking photos for most of it, but when the cast made for one of the exits, drum kit in various hands, we had to follow. We raced down the stairs, ran back round the building and through the bar just as the procession passed (surprising the life out of one esteemed frontman who'd been enjoying a quiet drink and chat until his peripheral vision distracted him) and followed the Pied Piper of nightmares into the stalls, where they set up and started again:

    But how to get back down? Ami, with some mild encouragement, had an idea.

    That noise, by the way, is Micachu and the Shapes attempting to actually set up on the stage during all this, which had a little while to go yet - indeed, had the plugs not been pulled just as another riff started up, they might have been there now, Shalev now in full shamanic mode having already got everyone to sit down straight after his exertions. Everywhere you looked, whether middle aged day tripper or local scene type, there were people not quite believing all this could happen in the space of one set, not to mention stewards and officials watching from the stage. Passing a door steward, we heard perhaps the most deathless excuse ever: "we don't have the insurance to let them set the drumkit on fire". Throughout, apart from the becalmed bits, was an absolute tsunami of a dance party, and the rest of the day was spent overhearing people trying to explain it to those - somehow including every single newspaper reviewer, none of whom even referenced the buzz - who'd missed it. If you didn't miss it? Well... amazing.

    Port O'Brien
    Missed them. Damn. Well, we had our excuse, and we saw the last two songs at least, although to be honest Van and Cambria egging everyone on to join them on the shoutalong bits of I Woke Up Today as a finale somewhat palled in comparison for audience participation.

    Micachu and the Shapes
    "Oh, it's a girl!" said the bloke in front of us to his mate after the first song, and while Mica Levy now sports a blonde 'do it's not as if she's given up much more ground to rote femininity. Unfortunately she's had to give up ground to the preceding, more primal forces, as she admits early on with "wow, where do you start?" Not that she's a slouch by any means, it's just her extraordinary falling apart songs, static solos, shifting time signatures, odd found sounds and broken structures aren't those that automatically win over the curious. For us it's somewhat captivating, though, watching these disprite elements joined somewhere by the power of shards of melody come together.

    Easy Star All Stars
    This is more in keeping. We've since seen a review complaining that they played too many Beatles covers. We think someone needs to explain the basic concept to that reviewer. Still, an hour of Beatles, Radiohead and Pink Floyd covers in dub mode does tend to drag a bit once you've worked out what they're doing - Paranoid Android is particularly entertaining. Deeply talented collective, but one that on a very warm day on the main stage tends to wash over you.

    First Aid Kit
    16 and 18, you say? God, it won't be long now until we're listening to music made by people we could legally have fathered. It is for this reason that we deliberately shy away from Tiny Masters Of Today. No such leeway given to First Aid Kit, whose gorgeous harmonies and deceptively simple songs hit you right there with the emotional pull that belies their years. They cover Fleet Foxes' Tiger Mountain Peasant Song in fine style and then pull out an updated version of Buffy Saint Marie's Universal Soldier, holding everyone's attention throughout. Great voices, immense futures.

    First Aid Kit finishing early means we get to catch some of the Faroes' finest's set. Odd type, Teitur, capable of going from poppy melodies to introspective slow motion darkness, noise into light, from song to song. Somehow it all hangs together well, although you get the impression that there's a little too much self-consciousness in the mix.

    Bon Iver
    Most people's headliners - only the Zutons to follow outdoors - but at the end of a year's spreading the word about his personal travails at what Justin Vernon says will be his last English gig for a good year, it can't really hope to match his already celebrated End Of The Road 2008 set, a perfect confluence of time, location and reception. Still, the slightly sparse and not totally attentive crowd here are still largely willing to have their heartstrings tugged by the carefully beefed up full band sound. Guitarist Mike Noyce can do it too, taking vocals on a stunning cover of Graham Nash’s Simple Man, but Vernon's voice still soars into the early evening air it’s Re:Stacks solo and the now traditional singalong The Wolves (Act I & II) climax that really steal the show.

    Imelda May
    Absolutely packed out the Musician Stage, which meant after a couple of songs and an increasing number of people deep outside the tent we had to disperse, although an overrun meant we caught her closing rockabilly take on Tainted Love, more attuned to the Gloria Jones version. Clearly something's afoot.

    Lightning Seeds
    Should have been Jenny Lewis, but we hear she couldn't get support for her one proper gig amid a couple of weeks' festivals across Europe and so scrapped the lot. Instead Ian Broudie and whoever his current hired hands are pack the hall out. Everyone says they're a great singles band, and the differing quality between the hits and the lesser known tracks and new songs he pulls out is marked. Still, it's difficult to argue with the precision craftsmanship behind the likes of Change, Life Of Riley and Lucky You, even if the blokes chanting for Three Lions will wisely go unrewarded.

    We called it a festival there. Back next year for the tenth event? Of course.

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    Summer Sundae 2009 belated review: Saturday

    Actually, one of our highlight performers of the weekend was the Sonic Manipulator, who played in both the garden area at the front for the kids and on a couple of nights out in the village for gradually decynicalising youths. We'd caught sight of him in passing in the woods out at Latitude, but here was our first proper opportunity to stop and admire this man in a space suit using all manner of electronic effects (lit up at night too), pedals, samplers and gubbins to do... well... this.

    There were actual musicians playing too:

    Her Name is Calla
    HNIC, now partly based in Leeds but longserving servants of Leicester's scene, always had their fill of post-rock dynamics but of late with an expanded line-up have become a dramatic beauty. Just four extended workouts in this set, opening the day as their tour started elsewhere that evening, but each pitched, built and erupted with a beauty and vigour rarely encountered, knowing when to hold back the tension, how to gradually shift it and when to really let loose with dynamic volume. An utter expansive triumph, making the hall size work for them rather than be reduced by it.

    Mr. Plow
    "That was just a suicide ballad, this is a proper disaster song". Something of a local cause celebre, Mr Plow does darkly gothic country of a Handsome Family bent. "Do you reckon he's heard some Johnny Cash?" whispers the girl next to us to her mate, which would be a fair point what with all the death, but that's to belie... well, the lack of the Johnny Cash rhythm for one thing, but there's a winning self-deprecation between songs and a plausibly downbeat storytelling bent during them. Probably didn't wake many up, but a unique way to coast into day two.

    Not as B-52's as we'd hoped from the singer's visor and the flying Vs. Can't actually recall that much about them, apart from having noted down their continuing laptop problems causing alterations to the setlist.

    The Fringe people rate these Nottingham teenagers very highly, but we can't quite see what they're bringing to the not exactly undermanned world of bands attempting to channel The Cure for the post-Libertines market. More raucous and loud than their Myspace suggests, but to little end.

    David Thomas Broughton
    Right, so he's a bloke with an acoustic guitar and a loop station. There are the facts. The actuality is something different, something that you suspect cannot be captured by word, second hand description or even on record. It'd be enough that, and we're surprised everyone else compares his voice to Antony Hegarty and Scott Walker when we thought this comparison was much more direct, his Yorkshire baritone, chanson structure and nimble fingerpicking is heavily reminscent of Jake Thackray, albeit a Jake Thackray less concerned with getting his end away than with drowning, disruption and disenchantment. But, on the barrier as we were with a grandstand view of his foot pedal work and messing around with assorted gadgetry, Broughton gives the sort of completely stone faced, absolutely inscrutable performance that while captivating and at times plainly hilarious is not a little disconcertingly worrying. Whether it's the studied tics and Tourettish sudden movements, or the way he'll build up a gorgeous folky guitar line before crossing it with one or two more and then just messing it all up before starting another song without a moment's hesitation, or the occasional dissolving into complete dissonance, or the deliberately controlled feedback solo, or the wandering off mike leaving vocal harmonies going for an age, all against these songs of heartbreak and madness... You see what we mean. And then at the end he starts beatboxing into a practice amp before literally running off stage, making time for a comedy pratfall. What the hell, frankly, was that? We still can't quite say, but we know it was one of the weekend's absolute high spots.

    Now, we've been banging the Minnaars drum for a while, and would during the rest of the day be accosted by three seperate members in assorted states of inebration, so we may not be entirely impartial, and we know others would consequently be less flattering. What we can tell you is, as the city's big achievers in the last year and going on after this to play Reading & Leeds, their math-electro-post-punk seems to grow tighter and more sweatily exerted every time we see them. They face issues with commanding the big main stage and with a constantly skipping backing sample track, but it's clear this is a band still growing up in public with complete confidence in themselves.

    The Joy Formidable
    A band we just cannot get into, and we've tried and continue to try throughout this set. Probably too late to analyse why. No doubt they're an exhilerating live band, though, a wall of manicured guitar noise, and Ritzy Bryan does a smart thing at the end where she props her guitar up against the amp, goes back to her pedals and pulls it back to her with the cord.

    The Kabeedies
    No shortage of a different kind of energy with the Norwich tykes, all frenzied knee lift-based dancing, ping-ponging quick and clean guitar riffs and yelped vocal interchanges. They're the kind of band who never want to lose the fun of actually being in a band, full of crosstalking banter and the knowledge that fractured melodies at pace will never go out of fashion.

    Broken Records
    While on Line Of Best Fit Twitter duties we may have texted that their set at Latitude justified every last bit of hype and hope we had for them. Well, it really did feel like that, seeing those songs come to life in a way the production of the album didn't manage. Given a longer stage time here the set is slightly dragged down by a couple of slower additions and Jamie Sutherland's twin problems with seeing a vista of people sitting down "like a village fete" and their having to drive back to Edinburgh that night in a van with a broken clutch. Still, when they get going with the If Eilert Loevborg.../A Good Reason juxtaposition people really get going, and remain with them through the swooning of Slow Parade.

    Emmy the Great
    Kind of a knife edge with Emma-Lee for this summer - an under-par set at Latitude due to technical failings was followed by an under-par set at Indietracks due to their not arriving until forty minutes after stage time due to a motorway accident. When she breaks a string during the second song and refuses to do First Love on its temporary replacement as it's "shit" (possibly the same "shit guitar" she bemoaned at Latitude) it looks like this is going the same way, only with the extra indignity of her accidentally flashing her knickers at the first few rows while retuning the spare. Well, she will wear those short dresses. Somehow, though, it turns round - First Love, when finally played, is a triumph and the momentum carries so far that one girl attempts to get over the crowd barrier in her excitement, albeit at a very slow speed which means security have to help her over before they can throw her out. Canopies And Drapes is played solo off-setlist at someone's request, the Carpenters' End Of The World is covered and it feels like when in the right frame of mind Emmy is as charmingly precise as we'd always hoped.

    Future of the Left
    God knows what they're doing here, but we're massively glad they are. Not much banter this time around, Kelson mocking our MC and the Charlatans but refusing the opportunity to let all hell break loose during Cloak The Dagger as usually transpires. Instead, he and Falco settle for rocking the Rising tent to its very pegged foundations with a set about evenly spread between the two albums, proving once and for all that the ferocity levels are higher on Travels With Myself And Another. For every bemused smile at the back at another lyrical bon mot there's a kid down the front going mad, as it should be. What a band this is, and remains.

    Saint Etienne
    The signs are back! Those that haven't caught these on our Flickr, the band (label? Who knows) have got random women to wander around during their set, as at Latitude, with replicas of the sign from the cover of Foxbase Alpha. We want one. Hear that, Heavenly? We want one. Their chosen few here, rather pointlessly, seem to be congregating together. On stage Sarah Cracknell is how you'd imagine Sarah Cracknell might be now, dashingly allurring to thirtysomethings (hello) in a trouser suit every inch the consummate frontwoman of sophisto-pop greatness, although the feather boa she adopted later in the set seemed somehow unworthy. Plus for a greatest hits set there were quite a few intros of the "this is from our album Good Humour. Anyone got that one?" "*silence*" type. And, despite Tim Burgess being on site, they didn't do I Was Born On Christmas Day, sod it being a warm August evening.

    Frank Turner
    We think the secret's got out. Doesn't sell a lot of records, Frank, but his gigs are increasingly like youth rallies just as his songs grow ever more AOR. Admitting defeat at the packed entrance, we go and watch the ATP film in the film tent. Which is marvellous, by the way, a little too in hock on occasion to Vincent Moon style but full of bonhomie-laced interviews and amazing live footage. It's showing across the country in October before a November DVD release. Go and see it.

    The Charlatans
    Didn't see much. Watching a film. Didn't recognise any of the three songs we caught. Ah well. That's a somewhat downbeat ending to an enthralling day, and that's without the Sunday frolics ahead. One band in particular were responsible for those, and it wasn't the New Beautiful South.

    Sunday, September 20, 2009

    Summer Sundae 2009 belated review: Friday

    tonsilitus again. this time they're coming out
    Mike Skinner via Twitter, Friday 10:06

    This year almost felt like a good one for our home town festival. Given a bigger area to spread out in might have diluted its famed family friendly but still knowledgeable fan attracting atmosphere but the whole team always seem to be across everything. Besides, we're (not the royal we) Leicester. We don't stand for low thresholds of quality.

    I will be doing summer sundae this evening and you hopefully won't notice the difference. I may be a bit more psychedelic
    Mike Skinner via Twitter, Friday 10:23

    Then again, fate always knows when to slip the lead into the boxing glove. Regular readers, and god knows why you would, will know that we always mention the number of pullouts from the festival, a ratio uncommon in an event of this size with a history and reliability. The same happened this year, with major sales point the Noisettes deciding to go to America instead, while out of this first day bill two of our must sees fell by the wayside in the preceding fortnight. Dananananaykroyd's John Baillie Jnr did in his arm stagediving - in fairness, something that was always bound to happen - and then Cathy from Fanfarlo contracting swine flu three days in advance. The fates dealing a poor hand, then, but this time, with uniformly fine weather forecasts and more people at the festival than ever before, they, having done their duty, would now keep well away.

    Weren't they?

    and just as i get the all clear, my bass player wayney is diagnosed with swine flu
    Mike Skinner via Twitter, Friday 11:39

    Of course not.

    waiting to hear from management but i suspect this weekend is not going to happen. i want to cry for socialist and capitalist reasons
    Mike Skinner via Twitter, Friday 12:15

    Although there've been times when you might imagine the headliners were chosen because a lot of alternate options failed to happen, never had such a high profile act made their apologies.

    it is with sincere regret that we've had to cancel this weekends shows. i think my previous messages have demonstrated my frustration but there is nothing we've been able to do at such short notice.
    Mike Skinner via Twitter, Friday 16:59

    The news broke so late even the rumour mill, previously only entertained by the whisper Nikki, the 'princess' off Big Brother 7, had turned up (camped next to a friend of a friend, in fact), had only just caught up when the announcement was made. Fair to say not everyone was upset - the first two letters of 'Unfortunately...' were scribbled out on at least two official notices - but it seemed to put a crick in the day to an extent. We weren't really planning to watch him, but something of that magnitude can't help but shake you up. We hear that day ticketers were given refunds on demand but there were less than half a dozen of those recouped, which says something. (Possibly that nobody really thought to ask, but never mind) Even so, there seemed something a little off about the atmosphere all day that we don't think was just due to the news, whether through the younger than usual crowd or the increased amount of commercialisation in the market or just the new site map, which we'll come to.

    In any case, it dissipated comfortably early into Saturday. Even the hot-panted Pringles girls seemed decoration (well, obviously in that sense, but...) rather than hard sell, and it seems the Bulmers area was turning into some sort of cider-fuelled activity centre. Besides which, the milkshake stall we ordered a drink from only to see a carton of milk brought out on which a two months gone use by date was clearly legible seemed indepedent. Besides all that, Summer Sundae remains what it is - an oasis of music and fun for all the family semi-relaxation in the middle of a city. Seeing fortysomethings, excitable children and members of the Leicester music scene everywhere you looked as well as the usual festival crowd seemed somewhat heartening. It's as if they've managed to punch above their weight effortlessly once again.

    Now, if you've ever read one of our extensive festival reviews before you'll know that it carries on for bloody ages, paragraph after paragraph of expostulation. None of that any more. None of you have the time to unpick all that stuff, so from now on it's artist name, description, bang, onto the next one and assume that as we're writing this we didn't get stabbed or drown in sewage. Fine? Fine. Friday.

    What they've done this year is changed the site layout around, which means everything I've always told people about how compact the main arena and stages are was for nothing. They've taken up a little more of neighbouring Victoria Park, I believe, but also decided that rather than rip up all the floral arrangements at the front every year they'd make that into a kids' Garden area and move the Rising Stage right out to next to the campsite. It's slightly bigger as a result, but at times, especially on Friday, it felt somewhat less populated too. Or perhaps people just didn't know what to make of Johannesburg's BLK JKS, the first pick by the again curating the stage on the opening day Drowned In Sound. It's very world music-y, with a lot of longeurs and jazziness especially from relentlessly grinning drummer Tshepang Ramoba, but also odd solos, time changes and marvelling syncopated crossover into dense sem-psychedelic grooves. Too often, though, they show off their versatility and dexterity at the expense of getting a song together.

    Kid British
    It should have worked on paper, given not a drop of rain fell on the site all weekend for once, but given a mostly unconcentrating audience the Mancunian collective's attempt at summery hip hop that attempts to be urban and pop all at the same time just led to a lot of songs that drifted past without making any impact, no matter how much the four MCs jumped about. Of course the kids at the front loved it, but you couldn't help feeling the fates were offering up their own version of events when, after an unneccessarily convoluted fully explanatory introduction to Our House Is Dadless, they made fully four attempts at cueing up Madness sample and band together before abandoning it.

    Jeremy Warmsley
    Playing a solo set (in Leicester? Hmm, that's a good idea) in Phrased & Confused's spoken word and songsmithery tent, he covers That Old Devil Called Love and, to request, True Love Will Find You In The End, and reveals the secret sixth verse to 5 Verses. The fact he can barely keep a straight face when introducing it gives the game up that it may not be strictly straightforward; that it's the chorus of Dry Your Eyes confirms it.

    Oi Va Voi
    We can never quite make out what Oi Va Voi are essentially for, and it seems neither can they. They're quite appealling when they go all Klezmer dance, but there seems to be very little of it in their set here. They have a tremendous violinist, but blow far too hot and cold from moment to moment.

    Gold Panda
    A late replacement for swine-struck Fanfarlo (they'll never come back to this city, you watch), the spectacle of one man behind a table of wires producing minimal glitch electronica isn't a crowd pulling one. 25, we counted. Including, it later turned out, Katie Harkin off of Sky Larkin.

    Elevated to fill a gap in the main stage, the beatboxer's beatboxer is a fascinating experience, looping, varispeeding and adding decks work to his own ultra-complex expostulations that occasionally break out into well known riffs. Exhilerating stuff, but one that gets a little wearying over time, especially when a guitarist joins him, and it doesn't really fill the main stage space.

    Wild Beasts
    Back for a third straight year, and relegated back to Rising from last year's main stage appearance as cover for Dananananaykroyd's enforced absence (see Fanfarlo - it's alright, just bitter experience talking) Luckily they're getting better as a live band all the time - the songs from Two Dancers inhabit their own world far away from guitar mores, breathing life into their syncopated splendour. All The King's Men sounds almost post-punk pagan, We Still Got The Taste Dancing On Our Tongues some sort of worryingly intimate confessional dredged from the Associates' darker corners, Hooting And Howling positively otherworldly. The closing Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants is virtually a dance track by now. How lucky we are to have a band with this ambition and intricacy.

    Mystery Jets
    Blaine's hospitalisation forced them to pull out last year, and without a release in the meantime they've been promoted well up the bill in comparison. We see. Actually, it was notable that whenever arms were being raised skywards during the set just about everyone had an under-18 (16?) fluorescent wristband on, which we suppose might account for some of the day's different atmosphere. Actually, it feels like they're going through the motions at the end of more than a year's touring, precious little spark for all the newly blonde Will's efforts even with a crowd urging them on. Two new songs are unveiled, Lady Grey and The Girl Is Gone, the former flecked with New Wave influences, the latter starting where Flakes from 21 left off, both unfortunately tapering away into something more... well... normal than we've ever come to expect from the band. Disappointing.

    Before seeing múm you kind of expect something austere, overtly studied perhaps. Little of that in actuality, as the fivesome go through a treasure trove of instruments, their own sparkling take on avant-folk dances and their unbridled excitability. It feels a little like daylight in on magic, but it's a thing of mild wonderment all the same.

    So Idlewild got the call to newly headline, as they did in 2006. That night they seemed to be going through the motions; on this night, though they might well be under-rehearsed and Roddy Woomble seems distracted, they better that set. That said, any Idlewild set that starts with Everyone Says You're So Fragile and When I Argue I See Shapes has to have something going for it, and most of the newer songs slip easily into the flow. Not a lot of people watching, though, and it's not like it's bursting inside...

    The Beat
    ...which we repair to for a little while, for the 'official' version of The Beat with Everett Morton and Ranking Roger from the original line-up, plus Ranking Junior. The former is still an energetic presence and there's no doubt, as shown by several years of packed Musician tents, that ska goes down brilliantly at the festival, as much as we're made to wait for most of the back catalogue's best moments and there's a reversioning of Rock The Casbah that seems most uncalled for. Still, the pair made a passable end to a nearly difficult day, the first of three, and about to really take off...

    Saturday, September 19, 2009

    The Weekly Sweep

  • 4 Or 5 Magicians - Nice Little Earner [YouTube]
  • The Chapman Family - Virgins
  • Everything Everything - MY KZ, YR BF [Myspace]
  • Thee Fair Ohs - Summer Lake [Myspace]
  • Fanfarlo - The Walls Are Coming Down [YouTube]
  • Internet Forever - Cover The Walls [Myspace]
  • Joe Gideon & The Shark - Civilisation [Myspace]
  • Johnny Foreigner - Criminals [YouTube]
  • The Kiara Elles - Odio [YouTube]
  • Le Loup - Beach Town [Myspace]
  • Los Campesinos! - The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future [Vimeo]
  • Minnaars - Are Lovers [Myspace]
  • Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man [YouTube]
  • Nat Johnson & the Figureheads — Wonderful Emergency [Myspace]
  • The Phenomenal Handclap Band - 15 To 20 [YouTube]
  • Slow Club - Trophy Room [live YouTube]
  • Stairs To Korea - Boy Bear It In Mind [Vimeo]
  • Still Corners - History Of Love [Myspace]
  • Tubelord - Propeller [Vimeo]
  • Wild Beasts - All The King's Men [YouTube]
  • Saturday, September 12, 2009

    The Weekly Sweep

  • 4 Or 5 Magicians - Nice Little Earner [YouTube]
  • Beth Jeans Houghton — I Will Return, I Promise [live acoustic YouTube]
  • Charlotte Hatherley - White [YouTube]
  • Everything Everything - MY KZ, YR BF [Myspace]
  • Fair Ohs - Summer Lake [Myspace]
  • Fanfarlo - The Walls Are Coming Down [YouTube]
  • First Aid Kit - Hard Believer [YouTube]
  • Internet Forever - Cover The Walls [Myspace]
  • Johnny Foreigner - Criminals [Myspace] (The video will have been released by now, we hear. We don't know, we're away in reality)
  • Karen O & The Kids - All Is Love [Myspace]
  • The Kiara Elles - Odio [YouTube]
  • Le Loup - Beach Town [Myspace]
  • Los Campesinos! - The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future [Vimeo]
  • Micachu & The Shapes - Turn Me Well [YouTube]
  • Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man [YouTube]
  • Picture Books In Winter - T.T.Y.N. [mp3]
  • Stairs To Korea - Boy Bear It In Mind [Vimeo]
  • Volcano Choir - Island IS [mp3 (on the left)]
  • The Voluntary Butler Scheme - Trading Things In [YouTube]
  • Wild Beasts - All The King's Men [YouTube]
  • Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Holding pattern

    Sweep aside we're going dark again for a few days, some at End Of The Road, others in offline climes. Still need volunteers for Noughties By Nature, and those who've already stepped forward should start thinking about what to write about as we'll get a spreadsheet together soon after we return. Which will be, ooh, nine days' time or so.

    Tuesday, September 08, 2009

    XX factor

    We really like The XX's album, but then so does everybody else, so we'll doubtless write more when the end of the year comes. For all the talk of their post-punk, dubstep and R&B influences, though, we have to put on record that we're detecting more of this era of this band, and actually this song in particular, in their sound:

    Sunday, September 06, 2009

    This station is re-operational

    This train of thought begins with The Second Hand Marching Band, the round-about-twenty membership pan-Scottish outfit who somehow belie their kitchen sink musical count while still creating songs of layered majesty. Invited to play outside the Scottish launch of the (excellent) ATP documentary film, they chose to do this:

    And then, in session for BBC Scotland's Vic Galloway last month, they went down a similarly opaque cover route:

    The Second Hand Marching Band - One Armed Scissor

    Not that they're alone in the stakes of cover-friendly STN favourites taking on that song for radio session purposes:

    Jeremy Warmsley - One Armed Scissor (2006 XFM John Kennedy Xposure session)

    And that of course would make one think of this, which everyone knows and, fact fans, led John Sessions to flee the studios completely:

    And one of the reasons we posted that was to lead onto our wondering whether we were alone in remembering their doing Rolodex Propaganda on TFI Friday the same day, during its last series when even Evans had got bored and disappeared, leaving a series of guest presenters, this particular week Huey Morgan and Donna Air (who apparently still qualifies as a TV presenter and Express favourite despite not having done anything except corporates and award ceremonies for years), to hold the fort. Despite its perceived rarity nature it had never turned up on YouTube.

    Until, literally, yesterday.

    Good work at the end there, Donna.

    Now, can someone put us out of our real misery and upload Sebadoh on Top Of The Pops?

    Saturday, September 05, 2009

    The Weekly Sweep

    What the hell, it's been a month, let's do a double set.

  • Bat For Lashes - Moon And Moon [live YouTube]
  • Beth Jeans Houghton — I Will Return, I Promise [live acoustic YouTube]
  • Bleech - The Worthing Song [YouTube]
  • The Bookhouse Boys - Shoot You Down
  • The Broken Family Band - Cinema vs House [live YouTube] (Splitting in October; a sad loss)
  • The Champagne Socialists - Blue Genes [mp3 from label page]
  • Charlotte Hatherley - White [YouTube]
  • Curly Hair — Blow The House Down [Myspace] (Some connection to the Wilkommen Collective, apparently, but not much like them, instead going the sugary lo-fi wrongly-tagged-as-twee route)
  • Dananananaykroyd - Some Dresses [YouTube]
  • Dinosaur Pile-Up - Cat Attack [Myspace]
  • The Dodos - Fables [Myspace]
  • The Drums - Let's Go Surfing [YouTube]
  • Everything Everything - My Kz Ur Bf [Myspace]
  • Fanfarlo - The Walls Are Coming Down [YouTube]
  • Felix - Death To Everyone But Us [mp3 from Pitchfork]
  • First Aid Kit - Hard Believer [YouTube]
  • Forest Fire - Fortune Teller [Myspace]
  • Grand Pocket Orchestra - Using The Body [Myspace]
  • Internet Forever - Cover The Walls [Myspace]
  • Johnny Foreigner - Criminals [Myspace] (Everyone in the world's heard Grace And The Bigger Picture except us, it seems)
  • Julian Plenti - Games For Days [YouTube]
  • Left With Pictures - 1, 2, 3, Go! [Myspace]
  • The Mountain Goats - Genesis 3:23 [mp3]
  • Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man [YouTube]
  • The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Come Saturday [live YouTube]
  • The Pastels/Tenniscoats - Vivid Youth [YouTube]
  • Picture Books In Winter - T.T.Y.N. [mp3]
  • Randan Discotheque - Daily Record, May 18th 1983 [Myspace]
  • Sondre Lerche - Heartbeat Radio [Myspace]
  • Sons Of Noel And Adrian - Black Side Of The River [live YouTube]
  • Stairs To Korea - Boy Bear It In Mind [Vimeo]
  • The Very Best — Warm Heart of Africa [Myspace]
  • Volcano Choir - Island IS [mp3 (on the left)] (Justin 'Bon Iver' Vernon and a few other friends)
  • Wild Beasts - All The King's Men [YouTube]
  • The XX - Islands
  • Thursday, September 03, 2009

    We've been listening to a lot of music

    A small but significant amount of it by Sunderland's dreamcatchers Frankie & The Heartstrings. At heart it's just glorious, if skewed, pop music, referencing the Smiths, Orange Juice and rock'n'roll's sophisticated side in a way few since imperial Franz have, plus nods to the likes of Dexys, the Yummy Fur and Go-Betweens, people who do things in a melodic way but very much to their own particular agenda. Since we first mentioned them Pete Gofton of Johnny X/J Xaverre/George Washington Brown greatness has joined in, Wichita Records have provided managerial support and they've been playing quite regularly around the north-east, newly confirmed along with several thousand others for Swn festival (if only... if only...) Theirs are songs for lovers.

    Frankie & The Heartstrings - Hunger
    Frankie & The Heartstrings - Fragile

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Sweeping The Nation Presents... Jeremy Warmsley

    More live business from the house of STN, hopefully one which some people might turn out for this time...

    Location: Firebug Bar, Millstone Lane, Leicester
    Date: Wednesday 28th October
    Time: 7.30pm (not 8pm as previously advertised)
    Cost: £7, including free entry to The Joy Machine club night afterwards from 11pm (it's nothing to do with us really, but we're very pleased they've agreed to let people already there for the live music stop behind gratis)

    Jeremy Warmsley
    You know we love him in a manly, comrade-in-good-music way; now we get the chance to bring him over under our banner for a solo set of new, old and borrowed songs.

    If He Breaks Your Heart (acoustic version)

    Peter Wyeth
    Acoustic songs wrapped in airy soundscapes and looped wonderment, pretty much the Leicester musicians' Leicester musician

    Lisa de'Ville
    Pure songs of soaring beauty compared to Jeff Buckley and Polly Harvey

    WeGotTickets link

    Facebook event page

    This isn't the only STN gig of October - details of a night a couple of weeks earlier will be posted whenever we actually sort the thing out.

    Become a fan of STN Presents...

    Tuesday, September 01, 2009

    Wake me up when September begins

    Right, we've got things to do, let's get on with the first of them.

    Three years ago we ran a feature throughout November by the name of Songs To Learn And Sing, wherein we invited bloggers, friends, countrymen to write on one topic: "the song you think everyone should hear". As you can see from that link, we tried to do it again the following May, where it was about as successful as all our other public appeals. But when it worked, my, did it work. Phonogram's Kieron Gillen produced a much linked to appraisal of Rhoda and the Special AKA's The Boiler. Emmy The Great mentioned her friend's unheard of new band Noah And The Whale. Tom and Gareth from Los Campesinos!, very early on in their hype, talked up Yo La Tengo and Bikini Kill respectively. And then there was recommendations for Sunset Rubdown and Madness and Toto and Esther Phillips and My Life Story and The Saints and Stereo Total and The Chills and Geneva and The Black Heart Procession and the New Pornographers and Jackie Lee and... you get the picture.

    Well, this November we're giving over all thirty days to a new venture by the name of Noughties By Nature (clever wording, we know, cheers), in which we'll list the undisputed one hundred and eighty greatest songs of this decade just closing.

    (Sidenote: we know what you're thinking, but those of you who follow our Twitter will know we first angled around for contributors a good six weeks ago, before Pitchfork's end of 00s roundelay began. So nerr.)

    The main points:

    - 30 days, 180 songs = six nominations a day (this doesn't mean you can only write about six, by the way, it means there'll be six posts a day, hopefully each by someone different every day)
    - One song per artist, in list rather than countdown format
    - A couple of paragraphs or whatever feels necessary, about each nomination, about why it's so great/important/inspirational/whatever. Don't be all Ian MacDonald about it
    - A good number, hopefully, of volunteers to write them, as we can't do it all ourselves, plus hopefully a handful of guest one-offs

    Which is where you come in. This is a democratic rundown, a collection for the people. Are you interested? Think of some songs to write about and let us know: email, or drop off a message on Myspace or Twitter. Or just leave a comment. OK?